Bone-anchored hearing devices are systems that treat hearing loss with sound vibrations. What makes this different from conventional hearing aids is that the traditional hearing aids simply amplify sounds in the ear canal. The idea behind bone anchored hearing devices has been around since the 1960s. A doctor discovered that titanium screws grow and meld with bone and could serve as an anchor. This is how titanium implants got their start.
Now, the first implantable hearing devices did not appear until the 1970s. Even then, it would not be until the 1980s that they were commercially available. These hearing aids solved a lot of different problems that people had with traditional hearing aids. Some weren’t able to use them due to ear infections, allergies, and other problems. Others did not have the capability to use them, period. This opened up the door for a lot of those who are hard of hearing to be able to hear.
In this review, we’ll talk about bone anchored hearing aids, what they are capable of and what the risks are.
Bone Anchored Hearing Aid
Pros and Cons
As with everything, you are going to have advantages and disadvantages. It is up to you to decide whether the pros outweigh the cons. Opinions matter. For some people, the cost may be no issue, whereas, for others, it may be the most important aspect. If you do not consider an invasive operation worth it, then it might be a little more difficult for the pros to outweigh the cons. However, if you can see the advantages of going under the knife, you might find that it’s better than opting out.
For the right people, we think that there are clear advantages to bone anchored hearing aids.
If you are nervous about bone anchored hearing aids, you aren’t alone. A lot of people have anxiety surrounding any form of surgery. It’s important to keep in mind that although you do have to undergo a surgical procedure, it is simple and common.
Bone Anchored Hearing Aid Reviews
When it comes to the hearing aids, many of them are similar. The quality of the material and abilities that come with the devices are a lot alike, aside from the price. Here, we discuss some of the different brands of bone anchored hearing aids.
Oticon Medical is one of the largest pioneers of bone-anchored hearing aids for children and adults. Ponto is its brand and it is intended to help you to understand speech and to prefer a higher sound quality. If you happen to go showering or swimming, it’s safer to take off the hearing aid entirely. You also may want to take it out if you’re stuck in the heavy rain.
Of all the companies who specialize in bone anchored hearing aids, Cochlear is the most famous. Reviewers tend to marvel over the quality of the sound with Cochlear. Now, the problem is that they do tend to run a little more expensively. When it comes to replacing parts or having it repaired, everything costs a lot more than most want to spend. However, what you do get is excellent quality. Cochlear does have great customer service if you do ever have any trouble. Cochlear products have high reviews and is one of the most preferred brands.
When it comes to Sophono, it designs its device so that you can’t see the bone implant. It also uses magnets to keep the device held to the implant. One thing to keep in mind with Sophono is that while it does perform well with speech frequencies, it can be difficult to hear other sounds.
If you want to talk about the price of bone anchored hearing aids, it is going to be a little more complicated than conventional hearing aid methods. This is because you have to have an operation, and medical bills may vary from person to person. If your insurance covers it, you may end up paying very little. If it doesn’t, however, you could pay a lot more.
For better pricing information, you should always check the prices thoroughly before signing up. Additionally, you want to make sure that your insurance covers it, or else the bill at the end may startle you.
Who Needs Bone Anchored Hearing Aids?
Bone-anchored hearing aids are not for everyone. Conventional hearing aids are still great for those who can use them without a problem. However, not everyone is capable of using the conventional hearing aids either. When it comes to your hearing, the type of aid you use is going to be personal. You have to take into account your condition, your lifestyle and your audiologist’s advice. If you’re unsure if you fall into the category of those who are fit for a bone anchored hearing aid, here is a list of those who may be more likely to use them.
People With Malformations of the Ear Structure
If you have a malformation with defects to the ossicles, you may not be able to receive constructive surgery. Some of these defects include malformation of the outer or middle ear, absence of the outer ear or ear canal, Treacher Collins syndrome, and other conditions. In these instances, sometimes surgery is not a good option because it can make the problems worse.
People With Single-Sided Deafness
When it comes to deafness, it may affect one ear more than the other. Most people recognize that they have this problem when they are in noisy environments or when they hear multiple people speaking at the same time. With a BAHA, you can then hear sounds from that side. This isn’t the most common choice for those who suffer from this form of hearing loss. Generally, the better choice is the Contra-Lateral Routing of Signal hearing aid system. However, the bone anchored hearing aid can do just as good of a job.
People With Chronic Ear Disease
On the more common side is chronic ear disease. This is usually intermittent drainage from the ear canal. When you have drainage, it can be difficult to use conventional hearing aids. Still, if you have this condition, you may need amplification. The great thing about a bone conduction hearing device is that you don’t have to interfere with the middle ear. You can leave the ear canal open while still boosting your hearing.
People With External Ear Problems
If you have some kind of irritation of the external ear canal, such as eczema, psoriasis or any other inflammatory skin condition, then you might find that conventional hearing aids only exacerbate that problem. A bone anchored hearing aid passes irritating your ear further.
What Are Bone Anchored Hearing Aids?
A bone anchored hearing aid uses bone conduction to deliver sound. As said above, many conditions require patients to consider this type of hearing aid. Now, they do tend to be more expensive than traditional hearing aids and to place them, you do have to go through an extensive surgery. However, this surgery tends to be relatively simple with few risks.
Bone anchored hearing aids are surgically implanted and transmit their sound through direct conduction. The sound can pass up the ear canal and middle ear. Now, usually, they will take a titanium prosthesis and embed it into the skull with a small abutment exposed outside. While some surgeons still practice this method, you may also have magnetic plates installed under the skin instead. Now, what happens traditionally is that the sound processor transmits sound vibrations to the implant. The implant can vibrate and this will stimulate the nerve fibers of the inner ear.
So, what happens if you aren’t satisfied with the BAHA? If you don’t like it or if for some reason your body rejects it, then you can reverse the process. The abutment is easy to remove! This does not have to be a permanent procedure if you don’t like it.
What To Expect After Receiving a Bone Anchored Hearing Aid
For most patients, having a BAHA is a life-changing experience. Many people cannot get the conventional hearing aids. For them, without BAHA, they are stuck with the hearing that they have. Now that we’ve gone over what exactly happens during the procedure, it’s best to also note what to expect when it’s all over.
Whether that’s part of the healing process or the changes that you’ll undoubtedly notice in your life. A lot of the changes are positive. There are a few disadvantages to this particular procedure. Some patients report dryness around the screw or skin irritation and that seems to be the most common issue.
Of course, most people would much rather have minor annoyances than to be unable to hear. It’s also important to know what you’re getting yourself into in advance.
Water and Your Hearing Aid
First, you have to be careful of water. You aren’t supposed to get the BAHA wet. This means that you have to take extra care when it comes to showering and swimming. Equally, you should probably consider how to deal with your hearing aid when it’s raining outside.
Wind and Your Hearing Aid
A second problem that many people have is with the wind. If you happen to leave your house on a windy day, then the odds are that it is going to be the only thing you can hear. Sometimes, you may have to turn the BAHA off to be able to drown out the sounds of the wind.
Maintenance and Your Hearing Aid
Don’t forget that maintenance is important! It can be easy to slack on it, but it is important that you don’t. Clean it regularly. If you don’t, you could end up with skin irritation from the screw.
Discretion and Your Hearing Aid
The great thing about this type of hearing aid is that it is discreet. While some people don’t mind their BAHA showing, there are those who are more self-conscious about it. For some people, the fact that you can keep it discreet may be a positive point.
No Ear Infections With Your Hearing Aid
When it comes to behind the ear hearing aids, it is easy to get an ear infection from them. If you’re someone who has chronic ear infections due to a hearing aid, then you know how difficult it can be to keep wearing them. You’d almost rather sacrifice being unable to hear. Fortunately, that does not happen with BAHA. It is a safe alternative.
For the most part, BAHA isn’t a dangerous procedure. It’s one that is performed every single day and without any complications. Those who are able to have the implants can usually testify to the fact that it changes and improves their quality of life. At the end of the day, the bonuses far outweigh the downsides.
A bone anchored hearing aid sounds more dramatic than it is. For some people, they hear that they may have to have some form of surgery and they might back away from it. We don’t think that it’s necessary to do in this case. The BAHA is simple to install and has very few side effects. In fact, most patients don’t have to deal with side effects, period. While there are times where it can be inconvenient to have the BAHA in, it serves its purpose.
Not to mention, it can help keep the ear healthier than the traditional methods. When it comes to patients who fit the criteria that we discussed before, we think that a bone anchored hearing aid is one of the best options on the market. Everything has its share of cons, but hearing should be important. If you have the ability to hear again, it’s best to take advantage of it.
Featured image: CC0 Public Domain via Oticonmedical, with banner, text, and logo added.